Take It Easy
If the increasing complexity of bike components leaves you feeling overwhelmed, consider a single-speed, like the Niner here. They're much easier to maintain (no derailleurs to break or go out of alignment), but the flip side is that there's no hiding behind your granny gear as the hills get steeper.
Bike parts break. Shocks blow, derailleurs snap. The only way around this is to either take it easy (yeah, right) or, as Niner's single-speed hardtail has kindly reminded us, ride with fewer parts. Purists might scoff at the front shock, but the S.I.R. 9 can be built up fully rigid (and geared), and the buttery steel frame is all about tradition. "This is an almost perfect single-speed," wrote one tester. "Best 29er geometry I've ridden, and the steel tubing feels amazing." Testers also praised the powerful Formula hydraulic brakes and the sprightly and lightweight feel of Stan's tubeless rims. 22.6 lbs (large); ninerbikes.com
CLIMBING: 4 DESCENDING: 4.1